Speaking to His disciples, the Lord Jesus instructed them as follows: "If you love Me, you will obey what I command." [Jn 14:15].
Love for God isn’t measured by how much money we put into the offering plate or how many times we may attend Mass. It is measured by our obedience to the commands and teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This is what God looks at to determine the measure of one’s love for Him. Jesus couldn’t have made this any clearer.
In fact, it is our obedience to God’s Word that gives value to the other things we may do. If I am walking in obedience to the teachings of Christ day after day, and attend Mass each week, give to the poor, and use my spiritual gifts to bless others, it is my obedience to Christ which gives value to those other things. But let’s suppose that all throughout the week, I lie, cheat, steal, get drunk and live a self-centered life, rather than a Christ-centered life, yet go to Mass each week, give to the poor, and involve myself in some sort of ministry. What value do those other things have since I have not made obedience to the teachings of Christ my primary goal in life? Jesus wanted us to understand that nothing we do can ever serve as a substitute for obedience to His commands and teachings. God isn’t looking for substitutes; He’s looking for the real thing, which is obedience.
Sometime ago, I came across a quote which really grabbed my attention. I do not know who the author is, but I liked what he (or she) had to say concerning love for God, because it really opened my own eyes up to certain truths. The quote is as follows: "Love for God does not mean that our heart must turn handsprings when we think of Him...It is not in how we feel toward God, but in what we are willing to do for God that our love for Him proves itself."
Let’s suppose that I am faithfully living a life of obedience to the commands and teachings of Jesus Christ. According to Christ, I love Him, because I obey what He commands. But is love always a feeling? Is it always warm and fuzzy? The answer to this is No. Love isn’t a feeling; it’s something that we do.
Although there are times when I feel wonderfully close to the Lord, there are many times when I do not. Does this mean that my love for Him has died? Of course not. Whether I feel close to Him or not, I obey what He commands. Whether I feel His Presence all around me or not, I do what His Word says to do. To God, this is what it means to love Him. We who are in Christ are called to walk by faith, not by feelings. Feelings have nothing to do with the love that God desires from each of us.
The American culture tends to put a great deal of emphasis on emotions these days. We’re big into feelings. But what happens when the feelings aren’t there because you’re stressed out on the job, not feeling well, overwhelmed with life, or physically exhausted? It is for this reason that we cannot rely on feelings. Instead, we are to focus on obedience to the Word of God, for this is how God measures our love for Him.
It would be wonderful if every day I could feel warm, fuzzy, and close to God. When those days come upon me, it’s easy to say that I love Him because I’m actually feeling that love in that moment. But then there are other days when I’m so distressed or overwhelmed with life that I can scarcely think a spiritual thought, let alone feel God’s Presence. During those times, the only feeling I have is stress. Does this mean that I no longer love the Lord? No. Jesus didn’t say, "If you love Me, you will have warm and fuzzy feelings about Me morning, noon, and night, you will walk in the clouds, and your heart will melt minute by minute with every thought of Me." Jesus said, "If you love Me, you will obey what I command."
I used to struggle with guilt over this. I really did. I know in my heart that I love the Lord with all of my heart, mind, soul, and strength. Everything I live for and long for is with Him in Heaven seated at His right hand. In Him I have truly found my Treasure. But when I would experience seasons in which I didn’t feel ‘warm and fuzzy’ in my relationship with God, I would panic and think that I no longer loved Him with all of my heart. It wasn’t until I really meditated on John 14:15, that I realized that Christ is looking for obedience to His commands, not warm and fuzzy emotions.
I am convinced that as we grow older in the Lord, one of the things He desires to wean us off of is feelings, because He knows that we tend to rely on them rather than on faith.
I am a revert to the Catholic faith. During the years when I was away from the Catholic Church, I visited many evangelical charismatic churches in different parts of the U.S. The services were filled with lots of hype. There was shouting, jumping, crying, and hand-clapping all throughout the services. While I have no problem with people expressing themselves emotionally, the problem with many of these churches is that the emphasis tends to be on emotion, rather than obedience to the Word of God and the fruit of the Spirit.
God loves worship of every type, whether it’s loud and expressive or quiet and reverent. If it’s directed at Him, and if it’s coming from the heart, He loves it. But worship means nothing unless it is accompanied by obedience to His Word. Obedience to His Word demonstrates our love for Him, not doing cartwheels in the pews. If I shout, "Amen!" all throughout a sermon, weep tears, and clap my hands in church, then spend the rest of the week gossiping, criticizing others, judging them, and refusing to show the love of Christ to others, what do my shouts mean to God on Sunday morning?
It is a deception to place our emphasis on emotions rather than obedience to the Word of God. Long ago, God said to Saul, first king of Israel, "To obey is better than sacrifice." God has always cared about obedience. It’s the only thing that has ever mattered or ever will matter to Him.
Emotions are wonderful, but we cannot, and must not, use them as a gauge to determine whether we are devoted to God or not. Obedience to the Word of God is what our Heavenly Father is looking at - nothing else. Enjoy the days when you feel close to God and your heart is overflowing with feelings of love for Him. But don’t become discouraged if you find yourself entering seasons when you do not possess those feelings. Keep obeying the Word of God anyway, for it is this, and not your feelings, which determines your love for God.
Since love for God is measured by our obedience to His Word, it is imperative that we spend time studying and meditating on that Word each and every single day. How can I walk in the ways of God if I don’t even know what those ways are? How can I put into practice that which I have not taken the time to study?
My daughter was given a Catholic Youth Bible in church today. On the front cover are written the following words: "Pray it. Study it. Live it." In a nutshell, this is love for God, is it not?
May God give us the grace to spend time in His Word each and every single day, that we, too, may come to pray it, study it, and most of all...
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